For chefs in need of a little culinary inspiration, Little River Cooperative's CSA offers some totally unusual finds, delivered straight to a restaurant's door.
This is the second year that the local farm is offering a CSA share made for industry professionals. The ten-week program is designed to offer an array of traditional seasonal produce — plus a smattering of unique additions that chefs aren't likely to find elsewhere.
"Because we’re in the tropics, we like to spice it up a little bit," says Little River co-owner Tiffany Noe. "Every week before they [chefs] get their shares, they get an email of what's going to be in the share. If there’s anything weird, we’ll include a picture and talk about that object and its traditional culinary uses — all to give them an idea and get them a little inspired."
"Weird" could refer to the likes of nopales cactus, minutina, or sea purslane — all of which made their way into chefs' CSA boxes last year. "I went to Key Biscayne to forage for the sea purslane," Noe says. "I think in Indonesia, they pickle it and use it in salads. It's very crunchy and almost like a succulent — it’s full of salt water."
The odd additions are definitely a bonus of the chef CSA, Noe says. "They’re so used to ordering what they use to cook with, I like the idea of turning it around." Really, the extra additions are designed for chefs to play around with.
"It’s for the specials board," Noe says. "The CSA is so seasonal; it's a way for chefs to learn more about the season. We only give them tomatoes maybe once or twice; the tomato season is so limited, and it’s right in December."
As far as what a standard chef share would include, here's an example:
- 5 bunches of fresh greens
- 5 bunches of carrots
- 5 pounds of thai eggplants
- 4 bunches purslane
- 2 pounds of mixed baby green and red veined sorrel
- 2 bunches of lemongrass
- 6 grapefruit
- 5 bunches of herbs
- 1 clam shell mixed edible flowers
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Little River is a small farm, so its CSA shares are designed for smaller eateries — although larger restaurants can order more than one share. Beachcraft — chef Tom Colicchio's restaurant in 1 Hotel — for instance, orders multiple shares. Each share costs $135 a week or $1,350 for the season.
Right now, the Little River team can accommodate about five more eateries, and it would love to work with new places, Noe says.
"We harvest the produce on Monday morning. It's a hustle once the CSA shares begin. We harvest early, and food goes straight into our trucks and right into the restaurant’s walk-in. It's the freshest you could imagine, which is kinda cool."
The share starts in late November and runs ten weeks. Chefs and restaurants can sign up at littlerivercooperative.com.